2020 Fishing Season in Review

December 28, 2020

2020 was a year that many of us want to forget, but all was not lost this season. In a time that was faced with much uncertainty, we were able to open The Clubhouse complying fully with all guidelines issued by the province of British Columbia, health authorities and WorkSafe BC.We developed an operations plan to ensure we protected the health and well-being of our staff, guests and the greater Haida Gwaii community. Life at The Clubhouse was different this season, but all guest reports were extremely positive on and off the water.Our guides delivered on the fishing front as guests enjoyed productive fishing with several released tyees in the 40’s with the top Chinook at 46lbs. Weather was typical for Haida Gwaii with a little bit of everything and whales and wildlife were active. We are extremely proud of our team for delivering a world-class fishing experience during an incredibly difficult time.

A rainbow over Lucy Island.While it wasn’t the season we had hoped for, there were still plenty of special memories that were made. We took a step back from our traditional fishing report this year and let our guests tell their stories. From family trips, to prize catch and a little bit of birthday luck, three of our anglers this season shared their captivating tyee adventures with us.


Guide Screamer and Gary S. with the largest tyee of the 2020 season - 46lbs caught and released.The season got off to a hot start with long-time WCFC angler, Gary S. landing a 46lb tyee on day two. His impressive catch was good for the largest Chinook of the season. After getting word of his catch, we couldn’t help but ask Gary and guide Screamer a few questions about what it was like to land this beauty right out of the gates.Clubhouse Head Guide, Mike “Screamer” Tonnesen was on board guiding and recalled, “We were fishing the AM shift at Lacy, the only boat out on the West Side. This was one of four nice chinook caught in short order tight in to the rock, calm waters and lots of bites on the cut plug herring.It was a good hard fight, both of us pretty excited with the fish, the fishing, and the releasing of this tyee. Gary told me this was his largest salmon he has landed in 25 years fishing up at Langara.”For those who have escaped to the northern waters of Haida Gwaii, you know how memorable catching a tyee can be, but Gary also has other memories he never forgets including the reasons he keeps coming back to The Clubhouse. “I have so many great memories from my kids, now going to obviously this monster. The reason I always come back are the people at the lodge, the dock, and all of the WCFC personnel.”We also asked if he has any advice for fellow anglers on how to land a monster tyee like his. He said, “Catching it and landing it was amazing as the stars have to line up just right, but my advice is to keep the rod up high and keep the line tight enough but let the fish run.Letting this monster back in the water was great as big fish make big fish, but I would be lying if I didn't want to take it.”


Long-time WCFC angler, Chris S. with his personal best - 40lb tyee caught and released with the help of guide Brent Gallacher.The first time I flew over Lucy Island, and made the approach into The Clubhouse, I was hooked. The mix of anticipation, awe, tranquility, exhilaration and pure joy all just culminate in that one moment. Nearly 20 years later this sensation has only grown, and from the day I leave each year, I start the countdown to the following summer.Truth be told, I am a horrific fisherman. I could fill far more paragraphs with the number of colossal “screw ups” I have self-inflicted and have “long-distance released” many more tyees than I have landed. Over the years I have discovered new and innovative ways to lose a Chinook in ways that would boggle the mind of the logical man. In the process of having a quadruple header, my long-time boatmate, and equally inept partner in crime, Ken A., lost all four fish; and managed to lose all the tackle in the process, wrapping a healthy amount of it around the motor. We put ourselves in a self-imposed “time-out” after this little incident. It defies reason how truly incompetent I am at this sport given yearly access to the most exceptional instruction known to man! I say this to highlight that if I am able to land a 40lb+ Chinook, then I assure you anyone can!

Chris jokingly said, "The little plastic fish is a better representation of my actual fishing ability." We definitely don't agree! In all honesty, the quest for a Tyee has meant a lot more for my long-time friend, and guide Brent Gallacher, than it has to me. Every year he tirelessly puts us on the fish and approaches the mission of landing the Tyee with a seriousness of purpose, that is both inspiring and intimidating. This summer, we dropped into a hole, and within the hour hooked into Chinook that took 400 feet of line out on a screaming run (hey, it’s my story, I can add poetic license where I want to)! Five to ten minutes into the fight we caught a glimpse of it break the water and I could hear Brent say, in his monotone, super-chill voice “it’s big”. From that moment on, all I could think was “Good lord, Spafford, don’t screw this up...don’t screw this up”. I focused every ounce of my limited ability to concentrate in that moment. I haven’t focused that hard since trying to get out of traffic circle in London! When we pulled that Tyee out of the water I first felt immense relief, and then looked behind me at Gallacher, saw a hint of what I believe was a smile, and felt just absolute elation...for him and me! No one could have worked harder over the years to put me on that fish; I was so happy for him in that moment.We proceeded to have an amazing trip landing and releasing two more 30lb + Chinook. Of course, plenty of screw ups were intermingled within these three amazing fish. Was catching and releasing a 40lb+ tyee amazing...well, heck yeah it was. It was absolutely awesome. But to me WCFC is so much more than fishing. It is the one time a year I get to spend three days hanging out on a boat with my best bud. It’s the one time a year that I see 16 of my other closest friends each night and we get uninterrupted time to be with one another and behave like adolescents. It’s a time to bask in the most spectacular nature in the world. It’s a time to enjoy incredible cuisine, a few beverages, and the most incredible hospitality imaginable. I think if you go to WCFC with the singular purpose of landing big fish, you are missing the point. It is simply just so much more.I love the WCFC. For me, it is a sanctuary that I treasure. This summer was a special moment for sure, but it was but one of millions of unforgettable memories that I have accumulated at this very special place.

Humpback whales bubble feeding of the coast of Langara Island. Shot by Chris S. in between bites.

An eagle on its way to bring food back to its offspring. Another beautiful shot by Chris S.


Guide Owen and Monica S. with her beautiful tyee that she caught and released. A magical memory for Monica as her family looked on while she was reeling in this beauty on her 22nd birthday. It was a legendary 22nd birthday for angler, Monica S. from Vancouver, BC after catching not one but two tyees on her trip this summer. While your chances at a tyee are far greater in Haida Gwaii, to be able to do it on the first bite of your first pass on your first-ever fishing trip, is certainly not something that happens every day. We had a conversation with Monica to get all the details on her incredible experience.WCFC: How long have you been fishing for? Was this your first trip to The West Coast Fishing Club?MONICA: This was not only my first trip to The West Coast Fishing Club, but also my first ever fishing trip!WCFC: What was it like catching a tyee right off the bat on your trip? This is not usually the case for first-time anglers, let alone catching a second one. Tell us all about it!MONICA: It felt quite surreal, it was not only the first fish I caught but it was also our first bite of the day and it was within the first hour of fishing! That being said, when I was reeling it in I had no idea really what was happening, I was just listening to the guidance my mom and our guide, Bud, were giving me. Once I reeled in the fish close enough to the boat that we were able to get a decent look at it and it hopped out of the water a few times, both Bud and my mom were like "Wow! That's a pretty good-sized fish!" and my mom got super excited. Those words actually made me a bit nervous because I was thinking "oh no that means this fish might be a keeper" and started crossing my fingers and praying that it was going to be a tyee so I would be able to let it go. When I finally reeled him in and we got him into the boat it was a bit freaky seeing this huge fish flop around at first, but we measured him up and confirmed he was in fact a tyee! We then let him regain his strength back in a big tub filled with water and took a photo with him before kissing him goodbye and releasing him! It was not until later that I really understood how crazy of an experience that it was to catch a tyee, and even more so having a tyee as my first ever catch! I was also fortunate enough to catch another tyee even bigger than my first one later that week on my birthday! When I had that one on the hook and was told it was potentially another tyee, this time I got to experience the excitement of reeling it in and the slight anxiety linked to catching a tyee where you are just praying you do not lose them! I overall could not have asked for a better fishing experience, I feel super lucky being able to say I caught not only one, but two tyees on my first ever fishing trip!

A final farewell before sending this tyee on its way. Monica caught and released her tyee with the help of guide Bud.WCFC: Who were you fishing with on this trip? What’s the best part of fishing with them?MONICA: I went on this trip with my Mom and my Step Dad and some good friends of ours. I fished with my Mom and our guide Bud the most during this trip but I did jump boats a tiny bit and got to fish with my Step Dad and another member of our group too for an afternoon. No matter who I fished with it was always a fun time with great company! The guides I had were awesome and huge thank you to Bud and Owen for helping me catch my tyees! All the staff made this trip an incredible experience, everyone went above and beyond to make it a truly special experience, I even got one of the tastiest cakes ever made for me for my birthday!WCFC: What was your favourite part of the experience?MONICA: Catching my two tyees was of course a highlight and an amazing experience, but I think my favorite part of this trip was being able to see all the wildlife. On our last fishing outing we got to see a huge pod of orcas swim right by our boat and I got to feed the eagles back at the docks after which was an incredible experience for me!--After chatting with Gary, Chris and Monica, a few things were clear from all three stories; it’s about the joy of fishing with loved ones, colleagues and best friends, it’s about the thrill of a salmon on the end of the line and it’s about enjoying the experience both on and off the water. As we always say, it’s never just about fishing.

Langara Island sunsets are truly hard to beat. As the future continues to look brighter by the day, we can say with certainty that we are looking forward to the 2021 season. To stay up to date on our latest news, announcements, fishing stories, recipes, photos and more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter here. Tight Lines!THERE IS LIMITED SPACE IN 2021. BOOK YOUR FISHING ADVENTURE TODAY! Call us at 1-888-432-6666 or click here to fill out an online inquiry.

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